If you go to Google and type in “Best time to go” the first default search that pops up is “Best time to go to Disney World” Clearly, that is a hot topic among vacation planners and one of the first questions a Disney bound family must consider. The short answer is Value Season. And here is the long answer…
Disney breaks up their calendar in to five “Seasons” that have nothing to do with winter, spring, summer or fall. While food and ticket costs remain constant throughout the year, Disney prices their resort hotels based on demand. The fewer folks looking for rooms, the less expensive they become. Logic dictates that lower hotel occupancy lead to lower park attendance – which means shorter wait times and better odds for those coveted ADR’s (Disney speak for reservations). You can expect to pay almost 50% more for the same room in a moderate hotel in the Holiday season as compared to Value season.
Disney also lures families in during the off peak times with some bonus offerings. The Flower and Garden festival is a great spring event. Food and Wine is fun in the fall. Seasonal parties such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will surely get you in the holiday spirit.
So if you can do more for less money there is nothing else to even consider – Value Season for me! Right? Well…maybe not. Value season is value season for a reason – and that reason is school. Unless you are willing to try to squeeze in a mid August trip before school starts - in the worst of the summer heat, you can count on school being in session during the value season. If you have a preschooler, missing a few days of school is a no brainer for most. (Shorter lines with a preschooler – sign me up!) For a middle or high school student, missing several days of school can mean trouble for even the brightest bulbs in the Lite Brite. Bottom line, the older the child is, the harder it is to take them out of school. As a travel agent, I try to always make sure I have a copy our school districts calendar on hand. A few times a year, our district will schedule back-to-back Teacher Workdays on a Thursday and Friday. This allows a family to leave after school on Tuesday and return on Sunday and only miss one instructional day. Value Season is now back in play!
The Value Season does have a few drawbacks that, to be fair, must be considered. Disney does an amazing job maintaining their parks on a daily basis. Occasionally, however, a more extensive rehab is required. Disney often schedules these rehabs during periods when the least amount of park goers will be affected. ..you guessed it…Value Season. Also, Disney cuts back on park hours during slower times of the year. Instead of Magic Kingdom closing a midnight or later, it may close at 8 or 9 pm. Fireworks and Evening Parades may only be offered a few times a week instead of multiple times per night.
Value Season “pockets” vary though the year, but in general January – mid February (excluding MLK holiday), August, September, and the first half of December are good times to consider. Regular season is also a good time to consider. It costs just a bit more and runs from mid-April until mid-May and from October until Thanksgiving. Summer, Peak, and Holiday seasons get progressivly more crowded and more expensive. Never fear if the more crowded times are the only ones that work for your family - A hot and/or crowded day at Disney is better than most days at home!